Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Looking Upward: Mark 8:25

 An Unusual Healing 

Mark 8 records the Lord’s unusual healing of a blind man in two stages. After leading him out of town by the hand, Jesus spit on the man’s eyes and touched him, then asked if he could see anything. The man “looked up” and said he saw men like trees, walking (v. 24). Jesus again placed his hands on the man’s eyes, and what happens next is obscured by a textual variant in v. 25. 

Variation Among Texts

The Byzantine Majority Text (BMT) reads kaì epoíēsen autòn anablépsai, translated “and made him look up” (NKJV), whereas the NA/UBS Critical Text reads kaì diéblepsen, variously rendered “and he opened his eyes” (ESV), “and he looked intently” (NASB), “and he saw distinctly” (CSB). The main variant concerns the compound verb anablépō, on one hand, which is a combination of the preposition ana (“up”) + the verbal blépō (to “see”), meaning to “look up.” On the other hand, the compound verb diablépō, which is a combination of the preposition dia (“through”) + the verbal blépō (to “see”), means to “look through” or “stare straight” or “see clearly.” While this may not be of major exegetical concern, we could be missing a subtle spiritual truth by not investigating further.

The more popular reading among text critics (though not consistently translated) is diablépō, even though the word does not occur anywhere else in Mark’s Gospel (only in Matt. 7:5; Luke 6:42). Alternatively, the verbal anablépō is repeatedly employed by Mark (6:41; 7:34; 8:24; 10:51, 52; 16:4). This shows Mark’s familiarity with the word as he consistently uses it to communicate something to his reading audience. Let’s appreciate that Mark is not only an inspired historian but also a theologian and evangelist. 

Spiritual Significance of “Looking Up”

In Mark 6:41 and 7:34, to “look up” to heaven in prayer was a subtle way for Jesus to direct everyone’s attention to the heavenly Father (cp. Matt. 15:31). In Mark 10:51-52 a blind man receiving his sight is described with the verbal anablépō (lit. to “look up”), but contextually Jesus has been trying to open his disciples’ “eyes” of understanding (8:31-32; 9:10, 32, 34; 10:13, 24, 26, 32, 35-41), and this miracle serves as an object lesson to illustrate this deeper spiritual truth (cf. 8:18). In Mark 16:4 the women were oblivious to Christ’s resurrection until “they looked up” (again the verbal anablépō) and saw the empty tomb.

Back to the unusual miracle in Mark 8:22-26, Jesus seems to be illustrating the difference between partial understanding (vv. 17-21) and clear understanding (v. 29). The semi-healed blind man’s eyes had apparently been pointed downward, having “looked up” to faintly see people at eye level (v. 24). If the verbal anablépō is repeated in v. 25 (as per the Byzantine Majority text), the man is being directed to “look up” even higher (i.e., toward heaven), resulting in complete healing and clear eyesight. This would not only demonstrate miraculous power coming from above (cp. 6:41; 7:34) but would also illustrate that clear understanding results from a heavenly focus rather than an earthly focus (cf. 8:33; Col. 3:2; Jas. 3:17). 


Since the rest of v. 25 goes on to affirm that the man’s eyesight was fully restored and he could see clearly, a prefatory diablépō would seem redundant (“he saw clearly”) or out of place (“he saw distinctly”) or misses the spiritual point (“he looked straight”) or has to be construed to fit (“he opened his eyes”). Perhaps ancient copyists were attempting to avoid the repetition of anablépō in vv. 24-25 (unaware of this subtle spiritual truth?) and altered the prepositional prefix (from ana- to dia-) to align with the rest of v. 25.

Whether or not we appreciate the value of textual criticism and questioning decisions made by fallible text critics and translators, let’s make sure we are committed to “looking upward” for the answers to our greatest needs.

--Kevin L. Moore

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Wednesday, 8 September 2021

People are Watching and Listening: the Saving Power of What We Say and Do

Having instructed Timothy about his role and responsibilities as an evangelist and mentor, Paul writes: Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:15-16).1

With respect to “these things” (all that has preceded, cf. vv. 6, 11) and in contrast to possible neglect (v. 14), “Practice” [meletáō],2 also rendered “Meditate” (N/KJV), capturing the sense of mental exertion, and “Take pains” (NASB), “Be diligent” (ASV, NIV), perhaps an extension of the athletic imagery used earlier (vv. 7-10). The word translated “immerse” is from eimí (lit. “be”), also rendered “be [absorbed]” (NASB), “give” (ASV, N/KJV), “devote” (N/RSV). The reason for these imperatives, “so that all may see your progress,” underscores the significance of Timothy’s example (cf. v. 12; 5:25).3


Keep a close watch on” [epéchō],4 “Take heed to” (ASV, N/KJV, RSV), or “Pay close attention to” (CSB, NASB, NRSV) “yourself” – attitude and behavior (vv. 7, 12) – and “teaching” (vv. 6, 11, 13; cf. 1:3, 7; 5:7; 6:2); “Persist” [epimé],5 or “continue” (ASV, N/KJV, NRSV), “hold to” (RSV), “persevere” (CSB, NASB, NIV). 

These directives are of utmost importance, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers,reiterating the principal aim of spiritual salvation emphasized repeatedly in this letter (v. 10; 1:15-16; 2:3-7, 15) and the next (2 Tim. 1:9, 10, 12; 2:10; 3:15; 4:8, 18). “Salvation involves perseverance; and Timothy’s task in Ephesus is to model and teach the gospel in such a fashion that it will lead the church to perseverance in faith and love and hence to final, eschatological salvation.”7


As we “adorn the doctrine of God” (Tit. 2:10), let us be mindful of William J. Toms’ observation, “You may be the only Bible some person ever reads.” As Christians, what we say and what we do comprise a living document, “to be known and read by all” (2 Cor. 3:2). 


--Kevin L. Moore



     1 Unless otherwise noted, the text used here is from the English Standard Version in bold type.

     2 Employed in the NT only here and in Acts 4:25 (quote from the LXX).

     3 Note also Matt. 5:16; Tit. 2:10; 1 Pet. 2:11-12. The work of a localized evangelist is within the fellowship of the local community, so “the really important work of the Christian Church is never done by any itinerant evangelist but always by its settled ministry” (W. Barclay, Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon 101).

     4 Also occurring in Luke 14:7; Acts 3:5; 19:22; Phil. 2:16. 

     5 Elsewhere in the NT, John 8:7; Acts 10:48; 12:16; 15:34; 21:4, 10; 28:12, 14; Rom. 6:1; 11:22, 23; 1 Cor. 16:7, 8; Gal. 1:18; Phil. 1:24; Col. 1:23.  

     6 See also Ezek. 3:16-21; 33:1-11; 1 Cor. 9:23, 27. Note the mutual responsibility of the teacher and “the ones hearing” [toùs akoúontás], involving receptive and responsive hearts (cf. Matt. 7:24; 10:14; 11:15; 13:9, 13-15, 23, 43; 15:10; 17:5; Luke 8:21; John 4:42; 5:24; 6:45; 8:43, 47; 10:3, 16, 27; 18:37; Acts 2:37; 3:22-23; 4:4; 8:6, 12; 10:33; 13:7, 16, 44; 15:7; 18:8; Rom. 10:17; Gal. 3:2; 1 Thess. 2:13).

     7 G. D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus 109.


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Wednesday, 1 September 2021

How did Timothy receive his “gift”?

While working with the Ephesus church (1 Tim. 1:3), Timothy is directed to devote himself “to the public reading of Scripture,”1 accompanied by “exhortation” and “teaching,” apparently linked to the “gift” [chárisma] he is not to neglect (1 Tim. 4:13-14a).2 He received this gift “by prophecy …” (1 Tim. 4:14b). Earlier in the letter Timothy is commissioned to fulfill his ministry, “in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you …” (1 Tim. 1:18). 

Prior to the completion of the NT, prophets were positioned in the local congregations (Acts 13:1-3; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 2:20; 3:5). As a fairly young Christian, Timothy’s potential in God’s service was recognized by the brethren in Lystra and Iconium (Acts 16:1-2), where there were elders in each church (Acts 14:23). Paul invited the young man to join his mission team (Acts 16:3-5), and Timothy was entrusted with a “gift” through or by means of [diá] prophecy, implemented through or by means of [diá] the laying on of Paul’s hands (2 Tim. 1:6; cp. Acts 19:6).

The local church leaders were also involved in the initial stages of Timothy’s ministerial work, not “when” (ESV) but “with” [metá] (in addition to) the laying on of the hands of the presbutérion, the “presbytery” or “eldership” (1 Tim. 4:14c). This was not a “council” (ESV) separate from the local church (note 1 Tim. 3:1-7) but the group of congregational leaders who “laid their hands on” young Timothy as a customary endorsement and confirmation, approving and appointing him to this ministry (cp. Acts 13:2-3; 1 Tim. 5:22). Any miraculous manifestation of Timothy’s gift would have been actualized through the laying on of an apostle’s hands (2 Tim. 1:6; cp. Acts 8:18).


--Kevin L. Moore



     1 Unless otherwise noted, the text used here is from the English Standard Version.

     2 Cf. Rom. 12:6-8. First-century prophets had control over the exercise of their gift (1 Cor. 14:29-32). 


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Thursday, 26 August 2021

Physical Exercise Vs. Godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-9)

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he informs his young colleague about certain things to avoid and what to prioritize.

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. (1 Timothy 4:7-9)1


Paul’s inclusion of the article toús (“the”), which most English versions have left untranslated,2 would be indicative of something familiar to his reading audience and presumably widespread. The múthoi, “tales,” “stories,” “legends,” “myths,” or “fables,”3 which Timothy is to avoid completely (cf. 2 Tim. 2:23),4 are, in Paul’s estimation, “irreverent” [bébēlos],5 not simply “pointless” (CSB) or “worthless” (NASB) but “godless” (NIV, RSV) and “profane” (ASV, N/KJV, NRSV). The disruptive preoccupations are also “silly” [graōdēs], lit. “anile” or “characteristic of old women,”6 thus “old wives’ fables [or ‘tales’]” (ASV, NIV, N/KJV, NRSV), “fit only for old women” (NASB 1977, 1995), or “typical of old women” (NASB 2020). The epithet probably comes from the oral tradition of storytelling (akin to urban legends and fairy tales), handed down from older women to younger generations (contrast Tit. 2:3-5).


Certain ones were enamored with “myths and endless genealogies” and “vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law …” (1:3-7), not to mention abstinence from foods” (4:4). Elsewhere Paul warns about “Jewish myths” and foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law” (Tit. 1:14; 3:9). Whether the troubling dissidents were wanting to be esteemed teachers like the Jewish rabbis or were simply enticed by the speculative interpretations and meanderings of these renowned scholars,7 their errancies were promoting a lifestyle impractical, unfit, and out of harmony with the way of Christ.  


The present imperative gúmnaze (from gumnázō, to “exercise vigorously”),8 rendered here “train,” “exercise” (ASV, N/KJV), or “discipline” (NASB), is an athletic term9 highlighting the strenuous effort Timothy is to expend in contrast to others who were engaged in pedantic inquiries, ascetic scrutiny, and pointless discussions.10 Timothy is to take initiative in striving toward [prósgodliness” [eusébeia] (v. 7b), “reverence,” “devotion,” “piety [toward God]” (cf. v. 8; 2:2; 3:16; 6:3, 5, 6, 11), i.e., to meet the spurious asceticism of the heretics by exercising himself in the practical piety of the Christian life.11


Timothy’s primary focus ought to be the spiritual training and discipline of the mind, spirit, and associated lifestyle,12 not merely “bodily” [sōmatikē] “training” [gumnasía]13 (v. 8a), “although the body is the means by which the spiritual nature is affected and influenced. Although it brings the body into subjection (1 Corinthians 9:27), this is a means, not an end in itself.”14 While admittedly “of some value,”15 the contrasting “godliness is of value in every way” – internally, externally, physically, spiritually, present and future. It “holds promise [epaggelía]16 for the present life and also for the life to come” (cf. Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; John 10:10). This was apparently a well-known proverbial saying, as the next verse seems to indicate.


The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance (cf. 1:15; 3:1).17 Most likely this points back to the foregoing affirmation,18 “godliness is of value in every way ” “It was a truth of universal acceptance among Christian people, because, in spite of all the drawbacks of a persecuting time, it had been happily realized in their checkered experience.”19


--Kevin L. Moore



     1 Unless otherwise noted, the base text used here is from the English Standard Version in bold type.

     2 Exceptions include the Literal Standard Version and Young’s Literal Translation. Some versions insert the pronoun “these” (J. B. Phillips) or “those” (GNT, NET).

     3 BAGD 529; five occurrences in the NT: 1 Tim. 1:4; 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:4; Tit. 1:14; 2 Pet. 1:16.  

     4 The verbal paraitéomai (cf. Tit. 3:10; Heb. 12:19, 25) means to “refuse, decline, shun, reject, beg off, get excused, avoid (K. S. Wuest, The Pastoral Epistles 70).

     5 1:9; 4:7; 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:16; Heb. 12:16; cp. Lev. 10:10. This would be the opposite of “holy” [hósios(2:8) and, in the immediate context, “godliness” [eusébeia] (vv. 7-8).

     6 The adj. graōdēs is a combination of graûs, “old woman” + eîdos, “appearance.”

     7 H. D. M. Spence comments on rabbinic tradition, “in which every book, almost every word—in many cases the letters of the Hebrew Scriptures—were subjected to a keen but profitless investigation. In such study the spirit of the holy writers was too often lost, and only a dry and barren formalism—commands respecting the tithing of mint, and anise, and cummin—remained, while the weightier matters of the law—judgment, justice, and truth—were carefully sifted out. Round the grand old Jewish history all kinds of mythical legends grew up, till for a Jewish student of the Rabbinical schools the separation of the true from the false became in many cases impossible—through all this elaborate and careful but almost profitless study” (“The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy,” in Ellicott’s NT Commentary 3:197).

     8 Cf. also Heb. 5:14; 12:11; 2 Pet. 2:14. Cognate with the noun gumnasía, “exercise,” “training” (v. 8). 

     9 Note other athletic metaphors in 1 Cor. 9:24-27; Gal. 2:2; Phil. 2:16; 3:12-14; Heb. 12:1.  

     10 C. J. Ellicott, A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles 74.

     11 Newport J. D. White, “First and Second Timothy and Titus,” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament 4:124 (emp. in the text).

     12 Cf. Rom. 7:6; 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 1:9-11; 3:9-10.

     13 Its only occurrence in the NT; the noun form of the verbal gumnázō (v. 7).

     14 Newport J. D. White, “First and Second Timothy and Titus,” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament 4:124.

     15 K. S. Wuest suggests that the contrast may not be between piety and what is normally considered physical exercise, but “ascetic practices which took the form of physical exercise. The latter as such is for the purpose of physical health, not a means of advancing in holiness of life” (The Pastoral Epistles 70-71).

     16 On God making promises, see also Acts 2:39; Eph. 3:6; 2 Tim. 1:1; Heb. 4:1; 8:6; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 2:25; and on the conditional nature thereof, see 2 Cor. 7:1; Gal. 3:14, 22, 29; Eph. 1:13; Heb. 4:1-7; 6:12; 10:36; 11:33. On the assurances that God is faithful to keep his word, see 1 Cor. 1:9; 10:13; 2 Cor. 1:18; cf. Rom. 4:20; 2 Cor. 1:20; Heb. 6:15-19.

     17 Cf. also 2 Tim. 2:11; Tit. 3:8; cp. Rev. 21:5; 22:6.

     18 G. D. Fee notes four possibilities: (a) what follows in v. 10; (b) the second half of v. 10; (c) all of v. 8; or (d) the last part of v. 8, concluding, with many others, “the fourth seems by far the best option” (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus 104-105). 

     19 T. Croskery, “Homilies,” in The Pulpit Commentary 21:76.


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Thursday, 19 August 2021

Asceticism Vs. Everything Made Holy by God’s Word and Prayer? (1 Timothy 4:4-5)

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he instructs his young colleague to anticipate and be prepared for departures from the faith. 

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5)1


This section begins with dé, which is rendered “Now” in a number of English translations to mark a transition to something new (CSB, ESV, N/KJV, N/RSV). However, as a conjunction dé more often serves as an adversative, “But” (ASV, ERV, NASB), which would then connect and contrast the current text with what has just been affirmed in 3:15-16 (no chapter break in the original) concerning the church as “a pillar and buttress of the truth,” including “the mystery of godliness” professed in the Christological hymn. “But,” sadly, not everyone remains faithful to the truth of the gospel (note chap. 1!).


As the Lord’s inspired agent (1:1, 12-18; 2:7) Paul receives and communicates prophetic revelations through “the Spirit,”2  although no particular process, whether direct or indirect, is identified here. The expression, “in later times” [en hustérois kairoîs] or “in latter times” (NKJV), is a general reference to the future without specifying a particular or limited time period.3  That “some will depart from the faith” was already happening (1:6, 19-20; 5:15; 6:10, 21 cf. 2 Tim. 2:18) and would get worse, something foretold on numerous occasions to various audiences throughout the 1st century.4 Early on the Christians in Thessalonica were forewarned of hē apostasía (2 Thess. 2:3), “the apostasy” (CSB, NASB), “the rebellion” (ESV, ISV, NIV), “the falling away” (ASV, NKJV), specifying something they had apparently been informed about already, thus no further explanation is needed or given. If it were important enough for Paul to have repeatedly spoken [élegon – imperfect active indicative] of these things (2 Thess. 2:5), surely the same teachings and warnings were provided to other congregations.5


The unfaithful ones will be “devoting” (proséchō, cf. 1:4; 3:8; cp. 4:13) themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,” an explicit affirmation of what was hinted at earlier (2:14; 3:6-7; cf. 5:15). Anything opposed to the gospel message (cf. 1:3, 11, 19; 2:3, 7; 3:9, 15) is ultimately of the devil and his evil forces.6 Apostasy is generated “through the insincerity of liars,” or “the pretentions of liars” (RSV), the noun hupókrisis7 alluding to “playacting” or “hypocrisy,” thus “hypocrisy of liars” (CSB, NASB, NRSV), or “hypocritical liars” (NIV). “Their hypocrisy consisted in their assumption of a mask of holiness, which holiness they considered was derived from their false asceticism and their abstinence from things which the Apostle proceeded to show were lawful.”8 As opposed to the “good” and “pure” consciences of the faithful (1:5, 19; 3:9), their “consciences are seared” (cp. Tit. 1:15). The verbal kautēriázō (its only occurrence in the NT) means to “mark by branding,” so a number of versions have added “with a hot [or ‘branding’] iron” (ASV, ISV, NASB, NIV, N/KJV, NRSV). Without the added phrase (CSB, ESV, RSV), the sense would simply be to “cauterize,” thus having become insensitive and unfeeling (cp. Eph. 4:19).


In particular they “forbid marriage,” an extreme view that arose among the ascetic Essenes (Josephus, Jewish War 2.8.2; Ant. 18.1.5) and later among the Gnostics (Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 3.6; Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 1.22).9 There was “no reason to dwell on this point at any length [dismissed with one short sentence]; the gross absurdity of such a ‘counsel’ as a rule of life was too apparent; it was a plain contradiction of the order of Divine Providence.”10 Note also 2:15; 3:2, 12; 5:14.11


They also “require abstinence from foods …” Unlike the peculiar anti-marriage philosophy, dietary restrictions were part of the Mosaic law (note 1:7; cf. Lev. 11:1-47; Deut. 14:3-21),12 while the question of meat sacrificed to pagan idols also posed a problem in a number of mid-1st-century Christian communities.13 Though Gnosticism did not develop into a coherent movement until the 2nd century,14 its incipient ideologies arose much earlier. Adherents embraced a distorted dualism, viewing the physical and the spiritual as antithetic forces, thus matter, considered flawed or evil, could not have been created by God. Such an erroneous belief system would naturally prompt the apostle’s stern denunciation.15


The importance of “thanksgiving” is a recurring theme in Paul’s teachings (note the double emphasis here, vv. 3-4; cf. 2:1).16 Whatever the radical ascetics were forbidding, “God created to be received with thanksgiving …” It is hard to be thankful for provisions denied or unavailable. Even though the Lord provides sustenance for all people (cf. Matt. 5:45), the ones who are truly grateful and consistently express thanks are “those who believe and know the truth” (lit. “the faithful and [the ones] knowing the truth”). This is not suggestive of two separate groups; the second description reiterates the first (cf. 2:4, 7; 3:15; 6:5).


For everything created by God is good” (cf. Gen. 1:31), “and nothing is to be rejected …” As an explanatory statement (hóti, “For” or “because”), this contextually applies to whatever the Lord has provided to be eaten that the misguided ascetics prohibit (v. 3; cf. 6:17).17 It would not necessarily include poisons, intoxicants, hallucinogens, or other harmful and addictive substances that were not designed by God for human consumption. The condition, “if it is received with thanksgiving,” fulfills the Lord’s intent, echoing and reaffirming v. 3b. The faithful ones knowing the truth gratefully receive and do not reject what is good (cf. 1 Cor. 10:30-31). 


As a further explanation, “for [gár] it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” The present tense participle hagiázetai, “it is made holy” or “it is sanctified” (ASV, CSB, NASB, N/KJV), implies current and ongoing action, by” [diá] (“by means of,” NASB; or “through,” ASV) the habitual practice of acknowledging and thanking God as the source of every good gift.18 Each time nourishment is received with thanksgiving, it is set apart19 from what is rejected (or even consumed) without gratitude or awareness of who ultimately provides. This is affirmed through the “word of God,”20 which is not detached from “prayer,”21 in that the revelation of the divine will prescribes the duty, the content, and the manner of expression of the prayer of thanksgiving (cf. 2:1).22


--Kevin L. Moore



     1 Unless otherwise noted, the base text used here is from the English Standard Version in bold type.

     Cf. John 16:13; Acts 16:6-7; 20:23; 21:11; 26:16; 1 Cor. 7:40; Gal. 1:11-12; Eph. 3:1-5.

     3 Cp. Acts 2:16-17; 2 Tim. 3:1; Heb. 1:2; Jas. 5:3; 1 Pet. 1:20; 2 Pet. 3:3; 1 John 2:18; Jude 17-18.

     4 Matt. 7:13-23; 13:15; 25:31-46; Acts 20:27-31; Rom. 16:17-18; Eph. 4:14; 2 Thess. 2:3; 2 Tim. 2:16-18; 3:13; 4:3-4; 2 Pet. 2:1-2, 18-22; Jude 4; 1 John 4:1, 6; Rev. 2:5; 3:16. 

     5 Note 1 Thess. 5:27; 1 Cor. 4:17; 7:17; 11:16; 14:33; Col. 4:16. 

     6 Cf. John 8:43-47; 1 Cor. 10:20-21; 2 Cor. 4:4; 6:14-18; 11:3, 13-15; Eph. 2:2; 6:12.

     7 Matt. 23:28; Mark 12:15; Luke 12:1; Gal. 2:13; 1 Tim. 4:2; 1 Pet. 2:1. 

     8 H. D. M. Spence, “The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy,” in Ellicott’s NT Commentary 3:196.

     “St. Paul is alluding throughout, not to Judaism proper, but to that false spiritualism and those perverted ascetical tendencies, which emanated from Judaism, and gradually mingling with similar principles derived from other systems …” (C. J. Ellicott, A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles 70).

     10 H. D. M. Spence, “The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy,” in Ellicott’s NT Commentary 3:196.

     11 Paul’s advice in 1 Cor. 7:1, 7-8, 25-27, 32-35, 37, 40 is in the context of “the present distress” (vv. 26, 29-31) and is balanced by vv. 2-5, 9, 28, 36, 38-39.

     12 Many of these were “probably from reasons connected with the public health” (H. D. M. Spence, “The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to Timothy,” in Ellicott’s NT Commentary 3:196).

     13 Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25; Rom. 14:1-23; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; 10:14-33; Col. 2:16a, 20-23.

     14 See Robert M. Wilson, “Nag Hammadi and the New Testament,” NTS 28 (1982): 292.

     15 See also Col. 1:9; 2:3, 8, 15, 20, 21, 23; perhaps the Corinthian correspondence as well (see W. Schmithals, Gnostics in Corinth [Nashville: Abingdon, 1971]); even more so in the Johannine writings (see J. M. Lieu, “Gnosticism in the Gospel of John,” ET 90 [1979]: 233-37; H. Koester, Introduction to the NT 2:195-96).

     16 The fem. noun eucharistía (“thanksgiving”) is employed in 1 Cor. 14:16; 2 Cor. 4:15; 9:11, 12; Eph. 5:4; Phil. 4:6; Col. 2:7; 4:2; 1 Thess. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:1; 4:3-4; the adj. eucháristos (“thankful”) in Col. 3:15; and the verbal eucharistéō (“give thanks”) in Acts 27:35; 28:15; Rom. 1:8, 21; 14:6; 16:4; 1 Cor. 1:4, 14; 10:30; 11:24; 14:17, 18; 2 Cor. 1:11; Eph. 1:16; 5:20; Phil. 1:3; Col. 1:3, 12; 3:17; 1 Thess. 1:2; 2:13; 5:18; 2 Thess. 1:3; 2:13; Philem. 4.

     17 See Mark 7:15-19; Acts 10:10-16; 11:4-10; Rom. 14:20; 1 Cor. 8:8; 10:25-26. “One may do as one wishes before God, but one may not impose those ‘wishes’ as regulations for others to follow” (G. D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus 100).

     18 See Phil. 4:6, 19; Col. 3:15; 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17-18; Jas. 1:17; cf. Psa. 23:1-6; Mark 6:41; 8:6; 14:22-23; Luke 24:30; Rom. 14:6; 1 Cor. 10:30. On God’s provision, see also Psa. 34:9-10; 37:25; Prov. 10:3; Eccl. 5:18-20; Matt. 6:33.

     19 The verbal hagiázō essentially means to set apart or separate from what is unholy to being dedicated to God (cf. 1 Cor. 7:14; 2 Tim. 2:21).

     20 Cf. 1:19; 2:4, 9, 15; 4:1, 3, 6, 13; 5:17; 6:5, 21; 2 Tim. 2:15, 19; 4:2; Tit. 1:3; 2:5 

     21 C. J. Ellicott, A Critical and Grammatical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles 72.

     22 Cf. also Prov. 28:5, 9; Eph. 6:17-18; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 John 5:14-15.


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Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Behavior in God’s House (1 Timothy 3:14-16)

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that,
 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:14-15, ESV). 

Second person (“you”) terminology is singular in these verses, so Timothy is being reminded of why he is receiving this letter. He has been entrusted with an enormous responsibility, viz. confronting error, facilitating proper conduct in the assemblies, and securing qualified leadership (1:3–3:13). Paul wants to be there in person to support his young colleague, but whether or not this is possible (cf. 4:13a), written correspondence will have to serve as a substitute for the apostle’s physical presence (cf. 4:13b; 1 Cor. 5:3; Col. 2:5; 1 Thess. 2:17).1


Timothy is standing in for Paul as the Lord’s official delegate to teach the brethren, verbally and by example (note 4:6-16), “how one ought to behave in the household of God.” Having compared congregational care and management with household care and management (3:3-4), here the church is identified as God’s family (cf. Gal. 6:10; Eph. 2:18-22; Heb. 3:6; 12:22-23).2 Unlike a physical temple dedicated to a lifeless god, “the church of the living God3 is comprised of living souls among whom the divine nature dwells (cp. 1 Pet. 2:4-10). 


God’s household is also his spiritual house or temple (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21-22), as the metaphor transitions into building imagery, portraying the church as “a pillar and buttress of the truth.” Both “pillar” [stûlos] and “buttress” [hedraíōma] (“ground,” N/KJV; “foundation,” CSB, NIV) convey the sense of “support” (NASB), providing a dual emphasis on guarding and defending “the truth” (cf. 2:4, 7; 4:3; 6:5).4 If a distinction is to be made between the two, a “pillar” also functions to display something of prominence,5 so the church, in practice and proclamation, “upholds the truth and keeps it safe” (JB). See also Eph. 3:10, 21; Phil. 1:27; 2:15-16.


Paul is not directly writing to the universal church, and his focus has been on the false teachings, conduct, and leadership issues affecting a specific Christian community. Since a building requires more than a single pillar or foundational support, speaking of “a pillar and buttress” without definitive articles subtly underscores congregational autonomy (see comments on v. 1). Each congregation of the Lord’s church is entrusted with this responsibility,involving every member and especially the leadership.


Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16, ESV).


The adv. homologouménōs, variously rendered “we confess,” “Beyond question” (NASB), “without controversy” (ASV, N/KJV), “Without any doubt” (NRSV), “most certainly” (CSB), occurs only here in the NT and essentially means “by common consent.”7  Having alluded to “the truth,” upheld and defended by the church, the mystery [mustērion]8 (cf. v. 9) “of godliness” [eusébeia] (cf. 2:2; 4:7, 8; 6:3, 5, 6, 11) is “great” [méga] (cf. 6:6), objectively descriptive of “the content or basis of Christianity.”9


What follows is commonly identified as a hymn or hymn fragment,10 albeit with textual variation. The relative pronoun hós (“who”), with which the affirmation begins in the NA28/UBS5 text, is theós (“God”) in the BMT/TR (from v. 15), though applicable to Christ Jesus (v. 13). It begins with the incarnation, “manifested in the flesh” (John 1:14; Rom. 1:3). The next line, “vindicated by the Spirit,” is better rendered, “justified [dikaióō]11 in the spirit” (ASV, ERV), parallel to the preceding phrase and thus descriptive of his resurrection and exaltation (cf. Rom. 1:3, 4; 1 Pet. 3:18). If “seen by angels” follows chronologically, his post-resurrection appearances would be in view or at least included (cf. Luke 24:1-8, 23; Eph. 3:10; Rev. 5:11-13).12 He was “proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world” (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Col. 1:5-6, 23). Finally, “taken up in glory” affirms his ascension and triumphant glorification (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:10-11; Heb. 1:3; 8:1-2; 10:12).


--Kevin L. Moore



     1 R. W. Funk notes that Paul’s letters were designed to create an “apostolic parousia,” using the letter, the public reader, and the apostle’s words to create the sense of an authoritative, personal communiqué as well as the anticipation of a future reunion (“Apostolic Parousia” 249-68). See also D. E. Aune, NT Literary Environment 190-91; W. G. Doty, Letters 26-27; L. A. Jervis, Purpose 110-31; R. Jewett, “Discussion” 48; P. T. O’Brien, “Letters” 552; S. N. Olson, “Epistolary Uses” 596; S. E. Porter, “Exegesis” 547-48; et al.

     2 Note other family metaphors applied to those comprising God’s church: John 1:12-13; 3:3-5; Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 4:4-5; Eph. 5:23-32.

     3 Describing God as “the living God” is common throughout scripture: Deut. 5:26; Josh. 3:10; 1 Sam. 17:26, 36; 2 Kings 19:4, 16; Psa. 42:2; 84:2; Isa. 37:4, 17; Jer. 10:10; 23:36; Dan. 6:20, 26; Hos. 1:10; Matt. 16:16; 26:63; Acts 14:15; Rom. 9:26; 2 Cor. 3:3; 6:16; 1 Thess. 1:9; 1 Tim. 4:10; 6:17[BMT]; Heb. 3:12; 9:14; 10:31; 12:22; Rev. 7:2; cf. Matt. 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38.

     4 Paul’s emphasis on “the truth”: Acts 26:25; Rom. 1:18, 25; 2:2, 8, 20; 3:7; 9:1; 15:8; 1 Cor. 5:8; 13:6; 2 Cor. 4:2; 6:7; 7:14; 11:10; 12:6; 13:8; Gal. 2:5, 14; 5:7; Eph. 1:13; 4:21, 24, 25; 5:9; 6:14; Phil. 1:18; Col. 1:5, 6; 2 Thess. 2:10, 12, 13; 2 Tim. 2:15, 18, 25; 3:7, 8; 4:4; Tit. 1:1, 14

     5 W. Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon 89. This would be particularly relevant to the saints at Ephesus, in view of the temple of Artemis (Diana) with its 127 marble columns (Acts 19:26-35).

     6 D. Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles 88.

     7 Ibid. 89.

     8 Something once hidden but now revealed, viz. God’s purpose in Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 2:7; 4:1; Eph. 1:9; 3:3-9; 5:32; 6:19). In 1 Timothy comparable to “the faith” (1:2, 19b; 3:13; 4:1, 3, 6; 5:8; 6:10, 12, 21), “the gospel” (1:11), “sound doctrine” (1:10; 4:6; 6:1, 3), “the truth” (2:4, 7; 3:15; 6:6).

     9 G. D. Fee, 1-2 Timothy, Titus 92.  

     10 A “hymn” may be identified in scripture by contextual dislocations, different terminology and form, unusual vocabulary, and a rhythmic style (see R. P. Martin, “Hymns,” in DPL 419-23; P. T. O’Brien, Philippians 186-202). Other possible hymns in Paul’s writings include Rom. 1:3-4; 11:33-36; Eph. 1:3-14; 5:14; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 1:15-20; 2 Tim. 1:8-10; and Tit. 3:4-7. Was Paul singing these words as they were being written?

     11 In Paul, see also Acts 13:39; Rom. 2:13; 3:4, 20, 24, 26, 28, 30; 4:2, 5; 5:1, 9; 6:7; 8:30, 33; 1 Cor. 4:4; 6:11; Gal. 2:16, 17; 3:8, 11, 24; 5:4; Tit. 3:7. 

     12 Some would interpret this as the Lord’s victory before his spiritual enemies (Gal. 4:3, 9; Eph. 4:12; Col. 2:8, 15, 20). 


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